Trip cancellation etiquette amongst friends
February 27, 2015 4:44 PM   Subscribe

What's the commonly acceptable etiquette on reimbursing someone when you back out of a trip?

Short Summary: A friend from work cancelled out of a ski trip and is now questioning my request to pay his half of the non-refundable hotel bill.

Timeline: Mid March ski trip to Whistler booked end October last year. Friend gets new job and backs out of trip in early February due to workload.

Cancelling the trip is completely understandable and not an issue as I'm meeting 15 other friends there from the UK so I won't be lonely. I immediately cancel his lift passes and try to downgrade room at hotel but not possible as single occupancy is now more expensive than the sale price we got in October for the 2 man room. I've made efforts to find a replacement for him on the trip but with no success as everyone who was planning going is already booked and those left can't afford it or get time off.

Fast forward to this week, I mention that the hotel bill will hit my credit card this week (two weeks ahead of trip), so I'll be asking him for the balance once my credit card comes due next month. He expresses surprise at this request and says that had he known that I'd be asking for the balance, he would have asked for the time off from his new job or helped me find alternative cheaper accommodation. I'd previously advised him to mention the trip to his new employer prior to starting, but he decided not to do that.

Moving hotels doesn't really work for me as we're all staying in the same hotel so moving isn't an option and the options he suggested were of a lower standard to the hotel we're staying in. Cancelling now would incur 100% loss of the hotel cost. Cheaper accommodation is currently only $100 cheaper for the 8 day trip for equivalent standard. Sums aren't insignificant so walking away doesn't feel right.

Since I already have the lift ticket refund on the card, my exposure isn't as great as it could be, but is still currently $456 more than I'd bargained for. I'm prepared to split this 50:50 in the interest of harmony; although we're social, we're not close friends, but it seems a shame to ruin the friendship over this. Splitting it works out to be a $28.50/night premium over what I'd committed to, which I'll treat as my personal single occupancy supplement.

Straw poll of friends tells me that I'm right in requesting payment of his share, but I want to make sure that I'm not living in an echo chamber with people just commiserating with me and telling me what I want to hear. In the past, I've reimbursed friends in full for cancelling on them and they've done the same for me, but is this just a British thing?

Any links to etiquette articles would be helpful. I'm not planning on putting them in the email response I've drafted ("Look, the internet says you are wrong!"), but useful mentally to have the support.

Bonus side dynamic: I was his boss until he quit last month. Shame to lose him, but it's a great job for him and no hard feelings apart from the gap in my organisation; he left on good terms and I'd hire him back tomorrow. This just strikes me as an oddity of social etiquette rather than something wrong with his personality.
posted by arcticseal to Human Relations (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
He owes you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:48 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I shouldn't be so brief. Under those circumstances I would be very sheepishly reimbursing you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:49 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Forgiving half of what he owes you is more than fair.
posted by deadweightloss at 4:51 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


He should pay. He likely won't. You have no way to make him.

Expect to eat the expense and think he's a shit and never invite him to anything else that he might back out of and make someone else pay for.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:51 PM on February 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


If anything is non-refundable, the canceling person has the obligation to either find a replacement or pay the costs that have already been incurred. Period. It's not fair to make someone else eat the costs of your inability to go, especially something that has been known about for ages vs. a sudden emergency.

You should have been clear that he would owe the non-refundable costs when he cancelled in early Feb though - I imagine he was hoping he was off the hook and is now annoyed (unreasonably) to find out that's not the case.
posted by foodmapper at 4:57 PM on February 27, 2015 [37 favorites]


I think he owes you, but I also think it's super weird you waited a month to tell him that (after you couldn't downgrade the room, you should have immediately gone and been like "hey dude, just fyi I was able to cancel your left tickets, but when I tried to downgrade the room to single occupancy but it was too late, so you're still going to be on the hook for those charges." That doesn't absolve him of owing you, but at that point he had the chance to do something about it (like find the time at work), and now he doesn't, so take responsibility for that mistake when you go back to him.
posted by brainmouse at 4:58 PM on February 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


In the past, I've reimbursed friends in full for cancelling on them and they've done the same for me, but is this just a British thing?

I'm American, and I'd say you're in the right here. He should be reimbursing you in full - I don't think this is just a British thing.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:10 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


He expresses surprise at this request and says that had he known that I'd be asking for the balance, he would have asked for the time off from his new job or helped me find alternative cheaper accommodation. I'd previously advised him to mention the trip to his new employer prior to starting, but he decided not to do that.

So he could be going but chooses not to, and he wants to skate the bill? Nooope. Tell him the Internet says he owes you.

But you should offer to take it in installments or let him pay for dinner for the next few months or somesuch.
posted by Etrigan at 5:14 PM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can't tell from your accounting of events if he has any cause to be genuinely surprised that he owes you money (ie, brainmouse's scenario above).

If I were your friend, I would pay you the full amount, regardless.

However, if I were you, and your friend has some genuine cause to be surprised that he owes money here, I'd cut him a break and offer (as you did) to go 50:50.

A better timeline of events as to when he knew and you knew that y'all weren't going to get a clean cancelation of his part of the trip would help.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:39 PM on February 27, 2015


I agree that he owes you but would also say that your delay in asking him gives him a right to call foul. ("If I had known I would have yadda.") He has a point. The longer the delay, the more the moral right passes from you to him. It still sort-of resides with you, but not entirely. The fact that you used to be his boss adds a layer of weirdness that's hard to analyze, but it helps him in this situation more than it does you .

If it were me I'd suck it up and let it go. Lose the cash, keep the friend.
posted by mono blanco at 5:41 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


To answer brainmouse, I told him at the time I cancelled the lift ticket that I couldn't downgrade the room and that if I couldn't find a replacement that he'd have to cover his part. Of course, this was verbal and not documented and he was likely distracted by quitting dynamics.
posted by arcticseal at 5:46 PM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah he owes you.
posted by radioamy at 5:52 PM on February 27, 2015


Is there any way this trip was considered by him, perhaps mistakenly, work related?
If so I can imagine him being surprised.
Otherwise why isn't he handling all his own cancellations, etc?
posted by chapps at 6:04 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Without your update: He owes you, but forgiving half due to the delay is generous and fair.

On your update: He owes you, period.
posted by jaguar at 6:05 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Especially given the update, he definitely owes you. I could see the argument if, say, the reason he couldn't go was that he was unemployed due to you firing him. But instead it's just a choice of how to spend his vacation time. You made an effort to cancel everything you could, and it sounds like you did give him as much notice as possible (it's on him if he wasn't paying attention). If he says something of the "I woulda coulda shoulda" flavor again, I'd gently say -- hey, I mentioned this last month! (Documentation is key in business relationships, it shouldn't be required among friends.) That said, you can't force him to pay (and even if you could, like, take him to court, you don't want to do that!). I'd apply some amount of pressure but ultimately if he's clearly not going to pay up, your sanity will be best saved by gracefully letting it go. And then never inviting him to something like this and dropping a line about the lame behavior to other friends who might be impacted in some future event.

For future reference, it's best to collect your portion of fees, etc. right when you pay so you're not left collecting money later.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:07 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


For comparative purposes, a friend of mine had to back out of a trip to NYC that I could not have afforded otherwise. As part of her cancellation, she gifted me the payment that would have covered her share of the hotel room.

Which is another way of saying that the gracious thing for your friend to do is to pay you.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:20 PM on February 27, 2015


Is this guy serious?? This would be like a joke in small claims court. Judge Judy would laugh in his face. Some people are stingy and they will make all kinds of justifications in their head about why they shouldn't owe you. It doesn't matter when you asked for it because you shouldn't have had to ask for it in the first place, he should have immediately said "what's my share." Is this guy really young? It's almost like a lack of understanding of how responsibility works. Like maybe he thinks because he has a "good reason" to cancel he shouldn't be "penalized"? Like he's the type of person who thinks elves wash the dishes or something.
posted by thebazilist at 6:29 PM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I agree that he should pay you. If I had a trip planned and I were interviewing for new jobs, after I got the offer, I'd be letting them know I have pre-booked travel from October that I can't move. In fact, I did exactly that when I got my new job. Or at the very least, I would figure out if canceling would be possible and then make a decision of whether to ask for the time off.

Your friend handled it poorly, and you offering to pay half is fair. He should pay up, but it sounds like he might not because it sounds like he has no concept of how he left you on the hook for the cost by not thinking ahead better and paying attention to the situation.

You are being kind -- plenty of people would be demanding the full cost. And I am sure some people would just eat the cost, which I would think is foolish unless the people are rich or unless they really can't afford to piss off the friend. I think you're being as reasonable as possible -- trying to recoup some of your loss, but trying to make it easier on the friend too so it's less of a demand and less tense for your friendship.

Part of me wonders if this guy is really a friend at all. He was willing to go on a trip with his boss when he worked there, but once he leaves, he opts out -- not because he has to, because he wants to use his new paid time off differently. Seems suspect.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:23 PM on February 27, 2015


Add me to the "He should pay in full camp." You're all presumably gainfully employed adults.

That being said, if he refuses to reimburse you, I'd let it go and ice him out in the future. Life's too short to waste your time on selfish people.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:51 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


it seems a shame to ruin the friendship over this

yes, which is what he should be thinking when he decides whether or not to pay what he owes you. If he doesn't pay it, then he's decided the friendship isn't worth the money.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:06 PM on February 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


If anything is non-refundable, the canceling person has the obligation to either find a replacement or pay the costs that have already been incurred. Period.

Yup, this.

He's probably not going to pay. It's up to you to decide whether this is a friendship dealbreaker or not. It would be for me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not any way work related. He came last year when we had a spare slot and so I invited him this year.
posted by arcticseal at 10:48 PM on February 27, 2015


You know it's funny how $250-500 is somehow like, the optimal And default friendship destroying amount of money. I've watched it happen way more than once.

He completely baldfaced 100% owes you here. The fact that the room is now cheaper, or anything else, is 100% irrelevant. Even before your update. He knew what was up, he just had a bit of deniability.

I've been left holding the bag in similar situations more than once. If he balks at paying up but does, make a note of it. If he refuses to pay right out or starts dodging you, then fuck him. At the very most charitable I'd blacklist him from ever going on a trip like this again with me, and I'd see it as decent grounds to burn the friendship over.

I just went on a trip like this, and before any money was put in we had a friendly, semi jokey discussion over drinks about how the money would be handled and how we were shielding the people bearing major expenses from flakes(which ended with me and the other main organizing friend just splitting everything 50/50 right then, like immediately handing over cash and splitting collection duties down the middle).

In the future, you need to be clear that any non shared by the entire group non refundable resources, like double rooms, you can't back out of. You pay whether you go or not once it's locked in.

This is always a bear, but stating it up front is the best move since you and everyone else who goes they might talk to can lay back on the easy kick stand of "hey, we had a big public discussion about this with everyone". It's nice.
posted by emptythought at 10:48 PM on February 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I am in agreement that you are already being overly generous by offering to absorb half of his expense. You are not the one that chose to seek new employment and not inform the new employer of preexisting plans. He really should be paying 100% of his share of any nonrefundable items unless he can find a mutually acceptable replacement.
posted by wierdo at 11:15 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


He owes you! I can't believe this guy. He has backed out by choice. If he wanted to, he could still ask for leave and go. Employers know people make plans.

I'm sorry you're in this position. If he was a close long term friend & you knew he would struggle to pay, I'd forget it in the knowledge that he'll make it up to you some other time, some other way, but you guys aren't close. Ask him to pay. Move on if he doesn't and learn the lesson about only lending money (which is essentially what you've done here) only if you can afford to lose it.
posted by stellathon at 11:27 PM on February 27, 2015


Yeah, it's super (read: "too") nice of you to offer to pay half, but I think your generosity sends this guy the wrong message. It makes it seem like you think you are half responsible for the situation--for his agreeing to something and then him trying to run out on it.

Was this this guys first job?.. Is he like 19 or something? Because this is the kind of lesson about adulthood it's high time he started learning. He needs to learn that he is only as good as his word, and right now he's choosing to paint himself as pretty irresponsible and untrustworthy.
posted by blueberry at 11:31 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am team "he owes you."' This kind of thing has happened to me more than once and now I get money up front whenever possible. Then, if a replacement is found, or other measures can be taken to mitigate the loss, you can refund some.

I agree with the comments above that this guy should be at least as worried about the consequences to your friendship as you are. In fact, he should be more concerned about the effect on any future reference you might give him for work. If I were in your shoes, I might be tempted to question his maturity and integrity.
posted by rpfields at 12:40 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with the comments above that this guy should be at least as worried about the consequences to your friendship as you are.
Yes!

Don't offer to pay half! He owes you. Very simple.

Does he understand that if he doesn't pay for the hotel room, the money is coming out of your pocket? I would ask him: "Do you think it's fair that I should have to pay for your hotel room when I didn't back out of anything?" Who does he think is paying here? Elves, as someone mentioned above? A magic money tree? Get your money back from this idiot.
posted by sunflower16 at 2:19 AM on February 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


He owes you and should he not pay up I'd question the friendship and also whether you're willing to give him a reference in future, based on this behaviour.
posted by prettypretty at 4:32 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, it's a little complicated by the fact that you are getting a benefit -- your own room, when you thought you'd have to share -- that is significant over an 8-day period. So I think it's fair to give him some discount. Is there anyone going who really wants their own room and might pay you some amount to switch with them?
posted by palliser at 5:01 AM on February 28, 2015


He owes you, 100%. It's very kind of you to offer to let him off the hook for half of it, but in reality he owes for all of his share, whether he goes or not. He chose to incur the expense, he has to pay --- he could have said 'thanks but no thanks' back when you invited him; instead, he accepted both going on the trip and paying for his share. Hell, he knew he was job-hunting, so he knew long before early February that he might end up not going!

If he refuses to pay, well, as others say above: drop it, but think about whether or not this is a friendship dealbreaker for you; it would be for me. Not in a blazing all-out fight way or anything, just quietly dropping him from all future invitations.

And for future group trips, get everyone's money ahead of time. Don't be nice and give them six months, like you have here: too many people are like this guy, and will keep putting you off with excuses and oh-I'm-sorrys and I-don't-have-the-money-right-nows and on and on and on, hoping you'll give up. Especially if you are dealing with someone who has pulled this sort of thing before, either get their money (preferably in cash!) beforehand, or let them make their own reservations. People are far less likely to flake out if their own money is on the line!

I'm not saying to never be the group organizer: just get their money before you make the reservations.
posted by easily confused at 6:01 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify a few points, the room only came due at 14 days prior to departure but all rooms are more expensive now since we bought in the sale. He's 35, well paid.
Total cost is just over $1,000 each but since I refunded the lift pass, the amount pending is the $450 (sorry, should have been clearer). Otherwise I'm on the hook an additional $1k.

One of the reasons I'm OK with paying half of what's owing is the consideration that he's still friends with the work team and I don't want my team dynamics impacted.
posted by arcticseal at 6:43 AM on February 28, 2015


Yeah, that still friends with the work team and I don't want my team dynamics impacted part is why you might decide it's worth the money to just drop the whole subject.

Would he pay even half the $450? I mean, is he insisting he owes nothing whatsoever? Maybe just get what you can without fighting him, then drop him from future trips. You're totally in the right, but he's making you miserable by dragging this out.
posted by easily confused at 7:24 AM on February 28, 2015


It's been my experience that work friends don't tend to last after someone switches jobs. In six months they'll barely remember who he is. He's shown you who he is; react accordingly.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2015


He's setting up for a negotiation (we work in Supply Chain), so I can see the cues. I've written my equivalent of a firm vendor letter and am going to sleep on it before sending it. Plan is to offer to split the remainder so it ends relatively amicably, but I'd already planned not to invite him again.

Thanks everyone for your guidance on this, much appreciated.
posted by arcticseal at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The right thing to do is for him to pay the full amount he owes and then, if someone jumps in his slot or otherwise takes up the space he would have taken, he might get some money back after the trip. The other thing to do is say, "Hey man, get the time off. This is going to be a fun trip and you'll be very sad you missed it, not least of which because you will be paying for something you're missing."

And never be on the hook for this guy again.
posted by amanda at 7:49 AM on February 28, 2015


One of the reasons I'm OK with paying half of what's owing is the consideration that he's still friends with the work team and I don't want my team dynamics impacted.

You shouldn't have to pay out of pocket to avoid complications caused to your employees by an ex-employee.
posted by jaguar at 8:09 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think morally he owes you. I'd skip the links and community-normal-etiquette discussion and just make it simple. Something like, look, dude, I made the reservation reasonably counting on you and you backed out. I think I shouldn't have to pay out-of-pocket for that, and if I do end up having to, I'm going to be pissed off. Let your conscience be your guide.

People like this will tell you all their circumstances and alibis to try to talk you out of being pissed at them for it so they can feel justified and not guilty. Tell him up front that's not one of the options. He'll probably pay.
posted by ctmf at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it is too late for him to get that time off of work then he owes you. He should be paying the full $456. When planning a group trip, having one friend booking accommodations/flights/tickets etc can be convenient, especially if the group wants to ensure that they will be able to sit together on the plane, have rooms close to each other, etc. That doesn't mean that the person who booked should be on the hook for flaky friends. He needs to find someone else or pay up, it should not be your responsibility,
posted by Lay Off The Books at 12:31 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The email worked, he's agreed to pay the split. Happy to walk away with that contribution and the single room supplement that I pony up feels fair. Suspect that the friendship will step to a lower level as a result, but at least it's not down to me.
posted by arcticseal at 9:09 PM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


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